"...prayer, thanksgiving, and joy go together in a kind of indissoluble union." Gordon Fee commenting on Philippians 1:3-8.


Preaching on Ephesians 2:11-13, John Calvin asserts that what Paul says of the Ephesian Gentile converts "would not be suitable at all points for our days" since "we have been baptized in our infancy." For the Genevans to apply St. Paul's exhortation to "remember that you which were sometime called Gentiles in the flesh... were at that time without Christ..." they should first remember that their ancestors were, in fact, unbaptized pagans. Then, of course, they can remember that they themselves had not always lived according to their baptisms.


After giving a brief analysis of Eph. 2:11-22 and before his exegesis, Charles Hodge, in A Commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians, felt the need to explain Paul's unequivocal statements in Ephesians about salvation and the Church in light of the biblical doctrine of election. He writes,

"As, however, the Scriptures always speak of men according to their profession, calling those who profess faith, believers, and those who confess Christ, Christians; so they speak of the visible church as the true church, and predicate of the former what is true only of the latter." (124)

To me this is a judicious way of putting it and should sound familiar to anyone who has read John Murray's essay on the extra-biblical character of the distinction of the visible and invisible church. I would only add that since Paul felt free to write and preach this way, so should we. I don't think it is necessary to hide from the implications of the doctrine of election. But I also don't feel compelled to qualify every biblical promise to the people of God. In other words, I don't want to take away from the promise of God in baptism by bringing up the reality of apostasy every time I baptize someone. I once heard a pastor ask the question after baptizing a child, "Is this little one a Christian now?" And then he proceeded to go through the possibilities. Better to say yes and if the baptized ever renounces his or her baptism, or it becomes necessary to warn the baptized person of the danger of sin, to remind a person that not all Israel is Israel. Who, at a wedding reception, would approach the happy bride or groom and plant a seed of doubt about whether the new spouse is sincere in, or will remain faithful to, his or her vows in the future?


New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson writes about the character of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians:

"In contrast to other Pauline letters, however, the 'good news' is placed within the framework of a cosmic battle... Human alienation from God is expressed as enslavement to forces fighting God, and manifested in hostility toward, and alienation from, fellow human beings. The prime example of this hostility is the division of humanity into 'two races,' the historical competition between Jew and Gentile.

The 'good news' in Ephesians announces God's work as a reversal of this state of cosmic-historical hostility. God has revealed his mysterious plan to reconcile all reality, bringing about harmony between God and humans and therefore establishing the possibility of unity among humans themselves. The agent of this reconciliation is the Messiah [he is our peace]...The sign of this reconciliation is the church."

The Writings of the New Testament, 413.


There is a multi-layered and, I think, fascinating relationship between the Jerusalem temple, Jesus' body, and the Church (and we could add, the Pauline conception of the New Creation). At different places in the NT Jesus' body is referred to as or associated with the temple. Paul repeatedly calls the Church Jesus' body and also the temple or house of God. One aspect of the relationship between Jesus' physical body and the temple that should be pointed out is that both were appointed by him to be torn down. The Church is God's rebuilt temple/resurrected Body, a temple/body not made with hands. These theological associations underscore the cosmic significance of the church and should help us to better grasp the seriousness of our getting along with one another in the Church. Paul's ubiquitous exhortations for the churches to live in harmony with one another can't be interpreted without this thicker biblical theological perspectve or they will sound (to me) like so many urgings to be nice.


“The task of ministry is to lead the congregation as a whole in a mission to the community as a whole, to claim its whole public life, as well as the personal lives of all its people, for God’s rule. It means equipping all the members of the congregation to understand and fulfill their several roles in this mission through their faithfulness in their daily work. It means training and equipping them to be active followers of Jesus in his assault on the principalities and powers which he disarmed on the cross. And it means sustaining them in bearing the cost of that warfare . . .

[The minister] is not like a general who sits at headquarters and sends his troops into battle. He goes at their head and takes the brunt of the enemy attack. He enables and encourages them by leading them, not just by telling them. In this picture, the words of Jesus have quite a different force. They all find their meaning in the central keyword, ‘follow me.’”

--Leslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society


C.S. Lewis on attending church:

"My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn't go to the churches and Gospel Halls; and then later I found that it was the only way of flying your flag; and, of course, I found that this meant being a target... If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can't do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit." God in the Dock, pp. 61-62.